About the Theatre
The Winder-Barrow Community Theatre had its beginning in early 2002 as a vision of four people. Alicia & Steve Simmons, Don Wildsmith, and April Cox conceived the idea of presenting live theatre in the Barrow County area. After a lot of planning, they applied for and received a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts. This Grassroots Grant was to help fund the first two projects of the Barrow Community Theatre as it was called then.
The two projects included a playmaking workshop for children ages 9 to 13 and also the production and presentation of several interactive children’s plays. These plays were The Three Pigs, The Ugly Duckling, The Tortoise and the Hare, and Little Red Riding Hood.
In May of 2002, an organizational meeting was held to inform the community about the plans and to hold auditions for the four plays. This group was named the Barrow Backyard Children’s Theatre. A group of interested adults and teens rehearsed and performed a total of 10 shows for children (two different plays per Saturday for 5 weeks).
Although the group did not have a place to call home, they collaborated with the Piedmont Arts Center for rehearsal and performance space. The plays were held at the Arts Center for several years.
On July 21, 2002, a meeting was held to put on paper the vision the group had for continuing theatre in Barrow County. The “Vision Team” consisted of Alicia & Steve Simmons, Don Wildsmith, April Cox, Jerbundy Mullis, Jackie Broadwell, Tony Manus, Lauren Suko, and Diane Cummings. After much discussion, they came up with a list of things they would like to provide for Barrow County. The list included opening the community to new experiences, providing cultural awareness, providing great shows and performances, and also providing opportunities for all age groups.
While still looking for a place to store and build sets, rehearse, and perform plays, the group continued to plan for the summer of 2003. The Backyard Children’s Theatre, with the help of another Grassroots Grant, presented a total of 16 shows (2 different plays per Saturday for 8 weeks). The shows for 2003 were Cinderella, The Three Pigs, The Tortoise & The Hare, and The Three Bears.
The first annual meeting of the Barrow Community Theatre was held on
September 28, 2003 at the Bethlehem First United Methodist Church. At
this meeting information was unveiled to community leaders and other
interested people about the past achievements of the theatre and the
plans for the future. The first Board of Directors and officers were
elected at this meeting. They were:
Alicia Simmons, President
Jerbundy Mullis, Vice President
Jackie Broadwell, Secretary
Bryan Mullis, Treasurer
Steve Simmons, Artistic Director
Tony Manus, Artistic Representative
Don Wildsmith, Technical Director
Jim & Betty Wrath
This group of officers and directors offered a variety of skills and experience in the many parts of theatre, and they were charged with the responsibility of continuing the building of the theatre in Barrow County.
It was announced at the Annual Meeting that plans for 2004 included an adult show in the spring and children’s shows during the summer. The children’s education committee also had made plans to provide a week of Drama Camp for interested children.
The group also voted to change the name of the theatre group to the Winder-Barrow Community Theatre because of the vast support of the City of Winder. The city provided the theatre group with a space in the old Duckhead Building in Winder. This gave them a place for meetings, rehearsals, and for set building and storage. In February of 2004, the group was incorporated under the name of Winder-Barrow Community Theatre, Inc.
The first adult show presented by WBCT was the Odd Couple by Neil Simon. It was directed by Jim Wrath and performed at 106 West on Athens Street in Winder on April 15, 16, & 17, 2004. Again a Grassroots Grant was received in order to help fund expenses for this first show. The show was well received by the community so plans were made to continue the adult shows starting with a full adult season of shows starting in the fall of 2004.
The 2004 season for the Backyard Children’s Theatre included three children’s plays. They were performed at the Barrow County Recreation Department’s multi-purpose building. The Pied Piper, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Princess & The Pea were presented on 8 weekends for a total of 16 shows.
The first offering of drama camp for children went so well that a second week was added. The drama camp was offered in conjunction with the Barrow County Recreation Department, and the classes were held at the multi-purpose building. Jerbundy Mullis was the director of the camp and was assisted by Jackie Broadwell and several older teens. The children involved with the camp presented a selection of fractured fairy tales for their parents & guests after camp was completed.
The 2004-2005 Main Stage Season for WBCT was made up of three shows.
- You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running by Robert Anderson
- The Marriage-Go-Round by Leslie Stevens and
- Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling
In late 2004, Steve & Alicia Simmons resigned from their offices in the theatre group because of a planned move to Alabama. Betty & Jim Wrath also resigned at this time. Elections for new officers were held. The new officers were Don Wildsmith, President, Jerbundy Mullis, Vice-President, Pam Veader, Secretary, and Ed Novak, Treasurer. Billie Nye-Muller was elected as the Artistic Director, and Tony Manus remained as the Artistic Representative. This new slate of officers was charged with finishing the plays that had already been planned since season tickets had been sold. They hit the ground running and soon had the cast & director chosen for the next show. This group also did extensive advertising and worked with many media outlets to get out the word about the Winder-Barrow Community Theatre.
In May of 2005, the Backyard Children’s Theatre changed its name to the Children’s PLAYhouse. This group of dedicated people taught two weeks of drama camp during the summer and also presented Sleeping Beauty as a children’s play.
The Children’s PLAYhouse production of Sleeping Beauty was presented on July 16 & 17, 2005 and directed by Billie Nye-Muller. This play was provided so that children could attend a play and see live theatre. Many of the students from drama camp were in the play as the king’s royal staff. After each show, the “royal guests” were invited to enter the “royal banquet hall” to have refreshments. While the children were having refreshments, they got to meet the cast and crew who were in full costume.
The 2005-2006 Main Stage Season started in September of 2005 with Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley. This show included our first Community Service night where we sponsored a local nonprofit group, the Barrow County Food Pantry. On Thursday night, audience members were asked to bring a bag of canned goods for the food pantry. If they did, they got in the play for half price. If they chose to pay full price for their ticket, then half of the money was donated to the food pantry. We presented a check for $357 to the food pantry along with a lot of canned goods. Over 230 people attended the play, and we had many positive comments.
The other Main Stage shows included Deathtrap by Ira Levin in November of 2005, Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon in March of 2006, and The Foreigner by Larry Shue in May, 2006. The community service nights continued with a different nonprofit group chosen as the recipient for each show.
The Children’s PLAYhouse provided two weeks of Drama Camp during the summer of 2006 and also produced Alice’s Wonderland Adventure by Billie Nye-Muller. The play was performed by and for children. The Drama Camps were very popular and many children were taught some of the basics of theatre. They presented a short play at the end of each week for their families.
During 2006 fund raising for the future theater building was started by WBCT. During July an event named Music of the Night showcased local talent in acting and singing. This enjoyable evening was the beginning of many events to help fund expenses for the theater during the construction phase. The City of Winder decided to renovate the old Carwood Manufacturing plant and build a modern theater. You can see all of the information about the construction of this facility by accessing the Winder Cultural Arts Center website. (See Links)
2006 ended with Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring in August and To Grandmother’s House We Go by Joanna Glass in November. A Family Christmas Celebration was presented in December with numerous dramatic and musical acts.
While anxiously awaiting the opening of the newly named Colleen O. Williams Theater, WBCT opened their 2007 Season by holding two plays at the Barrow County Leisure Services Center in Winder. They were Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward in March and Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry in May. During the summer of that year two weeks of Drama Camp were held along with the children’s show Get Up and Go by Stephen Murray.
At long last the Colleen O. Williams Theater in the newly renovated Winder Cultural Arts Center opened with the presentation of Plaza Suite by Neil Simon in August of 2007. The building was completely renovated by the City of Winder and included the theater, the television studio and offices for WBCT 24, a classroom, a kitchen with dining area, dressing rooms, and a large workshop area for WBCT. The community was very excited to have such a state-of-the-art theater available locally.
WBCT ended the 2007 Season with And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie in October and November. A Hometown Christmas show was held in December showcasing talent of the local area.
The 2008 Season turned out to be one of the best in the history of WBCT. The first musical, the largest cast, and the highest attendance awards went to Li’l Abner by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank in July/August. Over 800 people attended the musical and thoroughly enjoyed the show. Other shows during the 2008 season included The Man Who Came to Dinner by Moss Hart & George Kaufman in Feb/March, M*A*S*H by Tim Kelly in April/May, and It Was a Dark and Stormy Night by Tim Kelly in Oct/Nov.
The Aurora Theatre Festival was held in June of 2008, and WBCT entered the show Steel Magnolias. This show won the award for the highest attendance in the Studio Theater during the Festival. Two weeks of Drama Camp were held in June and July, and the Children’s PLAYhouse presented the play A Cat’s Tale by Craig Sodaro in July.
The year ended with two Christmas shows. Once Upon a Time by Winder’s own Jimmy Terrell was presented with the cooperation of the author. The second show was A Tuna Christmas by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard. This show was done as a Barrow After Dark presentation and was well received.
2009 should be another exciting year for WBCT as we present four plays for the season, a festival show, and two children’s shows. Be sure to come out and support live theater in Winder and Barrow County. We will see you there.